MADISON, Ill. (August 24, 2019) – In a season where every championship point figures to matter in determining the winner, Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden was pleased to add another point in NTT P1 Award qualifying Friday at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway.
Newgarden earned the NTT IndyCar Series point by winning the pole for Saturday night’s Bommarito Automotive Group 500 presented by Axalta & Valvoline. Although INDYCAR doesn’t officially award qualifying points until the conclusion of the event, Newgarden effectively has a 36-point lead over Andretti Autosport’s Alexander Rossi in pursuit of his second series championship. Rossi will start 11th in the No. 27 NAPA AUTO PARTS Honda.
Newgarden won the Gateway race in 2017 on his way to his first season title. He hopes to convert another strong performance Saturday night in the No. 2 PPG Team Penske Chevrolet.
“We’ve only gone through half the journey this weekend,” Newgarden said of the race to come. “We need to go through the race simulation and then see where we really end up. But I feel pretty confident that the PPG car is going to be strong and Chevy has obviously done (its) homework and given us a great package.”
Newgarden posted a two-lap run around the 1.25-mile, D-shaped speedway at 48.2554 seconds, an average of 186.508 miles per hour. That gave him his second pole of the season – the first came in the second race in Detroit on June 2 – and gave him eight for his INDYCAR career.
Newgarden’s effort as the final qualifier denied Sebastien Bourdais of Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser-Sullivan his 35th career pole. The four-time Indy car champion will start on the front row for the first time this season and helps take the sting out of crashing on the opening lap of last year’s race here.
Bourdais’ qualifying average was 185.927 mph (48.4062 seconds) in the No. 18 SealMaster Honda. He thought it might be good enough for the pole, but then rookie teammate Santino Ferrucci approached him.
“He just told me before (Newgarden ran) ‘That pole will be yours,'” Bourdais said. “I told him, ‘Man, you just jinxed it.'”
Team Penske took three of the top four qualifying positions, with last week’s race winner at Pocono Raceway – Will Power in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet – qualifying third at 185.896 mph (48.4142 seconds) and Simon Pagenaud (No. 22 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet) fourth at 185.143 mph (48.6110 seconds). Power won last year’s race here.
Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing’s Takuma Sato was fifth (185.050 mph, 48.6356 seconds) in the No. 30 Mi-Jack/Panasonic Honda.
Pagenaud, who is third in the standings with three races to go, now has a 41-point deficit to Newgarden. Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon, who qualified eighth (184.293 mph, 48.8354 seconds), trails by 53 points.
The Bommarito Automotive Group 500 (248 laps, 310 miles) will be broadcast live on NBCSN beginning with pre-race coverage at 8 p.m. ET (7 p.m. local) and green flag at 8:45 p.m. (7:45 p.m. local). The race also will be carried live on the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network and SiriusXM Satellite Radio (XM 209, Sirius 98, Internet/App 970).
Blues players bringing Stanley Cup to Gateway
NTT IndyCar Series driver Graham Rahal was excited to bring hockey star Colton Parayko closer to the racing action this weekend, but the Rahal Letterman Lanigan driver said Parayko has plenty of experience with the sport.
The member of the Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues used to attend Indy car races in Edmonton – he’s from Alberta – and attended his first Indianapolis 500 five years ago. He also has watched races in Toronto and here at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway over the years.
“In all aspects of life, he’s a pretty modest guy,” Rahal said. “He acts like he’s a newbie around here. He’s been around quite a bit.
“We were at the Toronto race (and) this guy just shows up. Never had asked for a ticket or anything – he kind of showed his true colors there. Obviously, (he) just enjoys coming out to the races.”
Parayko said the attraction was speed.
“I just think everything that goes into it is cool,” he said of INDYCAR racing. “You get a new appreciation for it when you come to the race. Bringing a couple of teammates (to Saturday’s Bommarito Automotive Group 500). Every time (I) bring new guys (to the track), new teammates, they’re like, ‘Wow, this is amazing, so cool. I agree.”
Joining Parayko at the track Saturday will be Blues captain Alex Pietrangelo, who will bring the Stanley Cup with him for an opportunity to share the NHL’s ultimate prize with INDYCAR fans. After that, Parayko will ride in Honda’s Fastest Seat in Sports that paces the field in pre-race.
Parayko took a two-seat ride with the Indy Racing Experience here last year.
“I got in and he’s like, ‘Can you get lower?’ (in the car),” said the 6-foot-6, 230-pound defenseman. “I said, ‘I’ll try.’
“It’s such a cool experience. (It’s) not close to any kind of appreciation to what these guys are feeling, what they’re going through going at a little bit of speed and going around the corners and stuff.”